Constitution and Bill of Rights

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Submitted By thetimmy5150
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In February 1787, Congress supported a resolution for revising the Articles of Confederation; in May, representatives from twelve states convened in Philadelphia. The original Constitution, ratified by the states, contained very few individual rights guarantees, as the framers were primarily focused on establishing the machinery for an effective federal government.

As adopted, the Constitution included only a few specific rights guarantees: protection against states impairing the obligation of contracts, provisions that prohibit both the federal and state governments from enforcing ex post facto laws (laws that allow punishment for an action that was not criminal at the time it was undertaken) and provisions barring bills of attainder. The framers, and notably James Madison, its architect, believed that the Constitution protected liberty primarily through its division of powers that made it difficult for an oppressive majorities to form and capture power to be used against minorities. In the ratification debate, Anti-Federalists opposed to the Constitution, complained that the new system threatened liberties, and suggested that if the delegates had truly cared about protecting individual rights, they would have included provisions that accomplished that. With ratification in serious doubt, Federalists announced a willingness to take up the matter of a series of amendments, to be called the Bill of Rights, soon after ratification and the First Congress came into session. The concession was undoubtedly necessary to secure the Constitution's hard-fought ratification.

Thomas Jefferson, who did not attend the Constitutional Convention, in a December 1787 letter to Madison called the omission of a Bill of Rights a major mistake: "A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on Earth." James Madison was skeptical of the value of…...

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